Gender and women's studies courses provide new perspectives
Gender and women’s studies courses are not just for women. The UA needs to expand diversity emphasis requirements to include a GWS course to encourage all students, regardless of gender identity, to explore new ways to approach high-profile social issues.
GWS courses can help students understand how they may take gender roles for granted, and the information they learn can be used to start changing dialogues and power structures, which would benefit society by dismantling the culture of violence and promoting equality.
“[GWS classes are] not only beneficial and entertaining,” said Zeynep Korkman, an assistant professor in the GWS department, “but essential for giving an awareness of the world and those around you that no other discipline can.”
GWS classes explore how gender, race, class, ability, ethnicity, religion, culture and sexuality intersect. They inspire students to view the world from new perspectives, while encouraging them to bring their own opinions and philosophies to discussions.
These classes shatter preconceptions large and small, from thinking fast food is not part of American culture to believing feminists hate men. Students are thus less likely to discredit the ideas of campus activists who discuss inequalities like the wage gap. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, women in the U.S. earn only 77 percent of what men earn on average, and women of color earn only 70 percent of what men earn. Eliminating this gap is about equality, not competition.
One of the primary purposes of GWS classes is to further the understanding of the social constructions we engage in and assess topics like marriage equality, border policy, violence, slut shaming, economics and rape culture.
Rape culture has recently become a hot topic at the UA and on other campuses, especially since UA student Dean Saxton’s infamous “You deserve rape” sign and the three sexual assaults reported on the Arizona State University campus in the past three weeks.
“You can take gender theories and gender studies and apply it to so many areas of life,” said Ariel Flowers, a senior who switched her major from journalism to gender and women’s studies.
By requiring GWS classes for all students, the UA can ensure that students are being taught not to engage in victim blaming, which contributes to a reluctance to report sexual violence. Currently, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 54 percent of sexual assults are not reported to police.
Understanding the social constructs that perpetuate rape culture provides people with the intellectual tools to take action against it. This can be as simple as protesting against a musician, like Robin Thicke and his song “Blurred Lines,” by not buying or listening to their music, or as complex as hosting a “Take Back the Night” event that encouages a community to oppose rape culture.
Korkman said learning about the ways in which we are a part of the gender system is invaluable. The patriarchy and other oppression-based constructs can only be changed by understanding how we contribute to the systems, which makes GWS classes important in a socially progressive society.
-David W. Mariotte is a journalism sophomore. Follow @DW_DavidWallace